Let the Children Come to Me

“Let the children come to me” is a line from one of my favorite stories of the bible, https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+18%3A1-5&version=NIV.  It is a point of intersection where the disciples are feeling annoyed and irritated by the children playing around, feeling perhaps some element of pride as they think they know better what is needed for a teaching moment.  And then, there’s Jesus wanting to highlight the simplicity and humility of children.

It was the end of this summer when I found myself reflecting on this story.  The air felt warm, although it was tempered by a slight breeze.  The clear blue sky with occasional cloud gave me energy and excitement for soccer practice that day.  As I finished lacing up my soccer shoes, I saw the middle-Schoolers roll in for practice.  We were in pre-season and about two weeks away from our first game.

I was an assistant coach last year and I’m doing it again this year.  My responsibilities are not as heavy as the head coach’s job, but I have been wondering if I would like to get back into that position.  There’s a certain excitement that goes along with managing a team, in particular as it relates to teaching children how to play the game, from developing their individual technical skills to learning the tactical aspect of how to play as a team.  The last team I coached was a competitive U19 travel team before I decided to take a break a few years ago.  Now I’m looking at a group of kids who have a wide range of skill, from never having played on a team to some who are playing travel soccer.

As we went through practice, I found myself following instructions and commands from the head coach to help the kids with their drills.  It was in this state of humility that I found myself in the Ignatian style of prayer one more time with Jesus in the foreground.  We were in Capernaum where Jesus had done many teachings.  The weather was comfortably warm with a slight breeze coming from the west.  The simple tunic I wore seemed cool enough as we sat in the shade.  The houses were close by and there were multiple open areas for children to play.  As Matthew in Chapter 18 recounted the story, “at that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, who he put among them, and said, “truly, I tell you unless you change and become like children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” 1

I thought of this story and realized that being an assistant to help these children of God was actually a gift that God had given me to help me be more humble and more obedient.  I desire nothing more than to be God’s servant so that I can be one with Jesus as I set my sights in God’s kingdom.  It is only in this state of accepting humbly and receiving God’s love that I can return love to God.

Now two weeks later from that soccer practice, I find myself in mass today contemplating the first reading from Jeremiah and the love he is feeling for God.  Jeremiah finds himself at odds with the chief officer Pashhur in the house of the Lord.  After Jeremiah’s prophecies that terror will beset Jerusalem, Pashhur “struck the prophet and put him in the stocks at the upper gate of Benjamin in the House of the Lord.” (Jer 20:2)

Jeremiah finds himself in internal turmoil and exclaims, “you duped me Lord, and I let myself be duped.  You were too strong for me, and you prevailed.  All day long I am the object of laughter; everyone mocks me.” (Jer 20:7).

But despite his internal struggle, he cannot contain his love for God: “I say I will not mention him, I will no longer speak in his name.  But then it is as if fire is burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones.  I grow weary holding back, I cannot.” (Jer 20:9)

This living flame of God, as St. John of the Cross explains in his book2, consumes my heart and wants me to do nothing else but to please God.  I want to get close to God, but I have to do it from a humble position, obedient to God and to God’s people.  Only by being like a simple child, pure in heart and feeling free with the Holy Spirit, can I “go here or there,” and be God’s servant, can I be more like Jesus.

Psalm 63:2-9 pops into my head, a psalm of David when he has in the wilderness of Judah.  I rest in God’s arms as I pray this psalm3:

Oh, God, you are my God –

it is you I seek!

for you, my body yearns;

for you, my soul thirsts

in a land parched, lifeless, and without water.

I look to you in the sanctuary

to see your power and glory

for your love is better than life;

my lips shall ever praise you!

I will bless you as long as I live;

I will lift up my hands, calling on your name.

My soul shall be sated as with choice food,

with joyous lips my mouth shall praise you!

I think of you upon my bed,

I remember you through the watches of the night.

you indeed are my savior,

And in the shadow of your wings, I shout for joy.

My soul clings fast to you, your right hand upholds me.


  1. Matthew 18: 1-5. Bible Gateway, New International Version.
  2. The Living Flame of Love by St. John of the Cross. Cosimo Classics, New York, 2007.  Translation by David Lewis.
  3. Psalm 63, New American RE Bible in Laudate App, https://catholicapps.com/laudate/

Heading Back to School Safety Tips

It is hard to believe that summer is coming to an end and September is just around the corner. This means that kids are heading back to school to enjoy another year of friendships and academic learning. To ensure that your child has a good experience this school year, here are some safety tips to keep in mind. Consider reviewing some of these tips with your child and discussing with them why they are important.


  • Always use public sidewalks; if there is no sidewalk and you must walk in the street, walk facing the traffic
  • Always look both ways before crossing the street. Do not enter the street from between objects like parked cars, signs, trees or shrubbery.
  • Teach children to recognize and obey the traffic signals, signs and the pavement markings
  • Never dart out in front of a parked car
  • Parents: Practice walking to school with your child, crossing streets at crosswalks when available. Have a pre-established route that you both agree upon.
  • Walking with friends is always safer than alone.
  • Review your rule of talking with strangers. Never get into a car without parent’s knowledge and permission.
  • Never walk while texting or talking on the phone
  • Do not walk while using headphones

Bike Riders:

  • Always wear a helmet that is fits properly.
  • Check with the school at what age children can ride their bikes to school.
  • Children need to know the rules of the road: Ride single file on the right side of the road, come to a complete stop before crossing the street and walk the bike across
  • Practice the route to and from school
  • Ride bike with friends; there is safety in numbers.
  • Watch for opening car doors and other hazards
  • Use hand signals when turning
  • Wear bright-colored clothing

Bus Riders:

  • Arrive early to the bus stop so your child is not tempted to cut corners or run across the street while trying to catch the bus.
  • Line up six feet away from the curb as the bus approaches
  • When riding the school bus, wait for the bus to stop completely before standing. Make sure the bus comes to a complete stop before getting off the bus.
  • Do not shout or distract the driver.
  • Do not walk in the driver’s “blind spot” — this is the area from the front of the bus to about 10 feet in front of the bus.

Teen Drivers:

  • No texting while driving.
  • Do not take a call on your phone unless you have a hands-free option in your car.
  • Don’t change the music on your phone while driving
  • Plan to get to school early.  Accidents increase and defensive driving goes down when you are in a hurry to get to school.
  • Slow down for school zones
  • Students with a level two driver’s license in Michigan cannot take more than one passenger under the age of 21 in the car (with some exceptions)
  • https://www.michigan.gov/sos/faqs/license-and-id/drivers-under-18

More Resources

As we think about other topics of safety in the school environment, you can visit the State of Michigan web’s page for more information.


The Feast of Mary Magdalene

We celebrate on July 22nd, the Feast of Mary Magdalene.  We know little about Mary but there seem to be some generally accepted truths:  there were women who accompanied Jesus on his mission, some who had been cured of evil spirits, among them Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:1-2); Mary Magdalene is among the women who witness Jesus’ crucifixion (John 19:25); and Mary is the first to visit the empty tomb, tell the apostles, and then encounters the resurrected Jesus (John 20: 1-18).

 Perhaps the story that I can relate the most is when she comes back after Peter and John have raced to see the empty tomb.  As I place myself in the scene and let my imagination participate in the Ignatian style, meditative contemplation, I can feel Mary’s anguish and pain.   It has been less than three days since Jesus was crucified.  I’m having a hard time understanding why the Romans would crucify him, he seemed to be such a good person, kind and merciful.  His unconditional love touched all of us and advised us to turn the other cheek when trouble and insults would arise.   Even the Jewish elders were angry at him and wanted him to go away.  I could feel Jesus’ love for me and how he touched my heart.  The whole crucifixion seemed so barbaric with so much bleeding, it just did not seem fair!

We wanted to give Jesus a proper burial on Friday instead of leaving him on the cross, and now it seems the Romans have taken him.  Or was it the gardener.   I watch Mary as she interacts with the angels inside the tomb as noted in the Gospel of John:

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.  (John 20: 1-18, NIV) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+20%3A1-18&version=NIV

How often have I found myself in Mary’s position, stuck in my own feelings of pain and sadness after an adverse event, wondering where was Jesus so he could help me out?  It has been easy to be blinded by my own preoccupations, particularly if I’m feeling strongly that I want to do things my own way, make things better by myself.

But as I humble myself, acknowledging that I am so dependent on God and I am not much without God, I can feel the gardener become Jesus who looks at me and says, “John, I am right here.  I have always been with you to guide you, to take care of you because you belong to me, you are one of mine.  Your load may feel heavy, but I am here to lighten it.  Let me love you and have mercy on you so we can go together to our Father.”

As my eyes become cloudy, I let Jesus put his arm around me and we walk together.   I am no longer wondering where Jesus’ body has been placed, I know he has ascended to be with our father.  Hopefully, it will not be long before it’s my turn to ascend and be with the Holy Trinity.

Thank you, Lord, for taking care of me, for guiding me, for giving me your unconditional love, for having mercy on me.  May we rest in your peace.

Tips for staying safe near water this summer

As we head into the summer, I thought I would share with you some tips for staying safe near the water this summer.  Here are some statistics to think about.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

  • There are 4,000 unintentional fatal drownings every year in the U.S.
  • There are 8,000 unintentional non-fatal drownings every year in the U.S.
    • Nearly 40% of non-fatal drownings treated in the emergency departments require further hospitalization
  • More kids in the 1-4 years old age range die from drowning than any other cause of death

Drowning is one of the most common forms of unintentional deaths amongst kids and teens in the U.S. With the right preparation and training, we can help prevent accidental drowning.

Who is Most at Risk for Drowning?

Children ages 1-4

Kids between the ages of 1-4 are more likely than any other age group to drown. With this age group, drowning is most common when the child was not expected to be near water. This includes children gaining access to an unsupervised pool. In fact, home swimming pools are the most common drowning site for kids ages 1-4.

Older teens and adults

In the 15-year-old and older group, most drownings occur in natural water settings (lakes, rivers, oceans, etc.). Moreso, around 80% of young adults and adults who die from drowning are male. Why might this be? Many of these drownings are connected to alcohol and high-risk activities. If you have a teen at home, I highly encourage you to share this article with them as we approach summer.

Non-Age-Related Risk Factors

People with certain medical conditions like seizures, autism or a heart condition are also at an increased risk for unintentional drowning. For people with a seizure disorder, the bathtub is the most common site for unintentional drowning. If a loved one suffers from a medical condition where they may lose control of their body or may not be able to safely care for themselves in a stressful situation, be sure to pay extra attention when they are near water.

Prevention is Key to Avoiding Drowning

So how do we make our environment safer and reduce the risk of drowning? Have a layered approach to water safety. This means:

  1. Have multiple safety steps in place to avoid accidents before they happen.
  2. Educate yourself and your children on how to stay safe in and around water.

Here are some tips from CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website (healthychildren.org), and AAP patient education handouts.

Swim Lessons

It is never too early to get your child into swim lessons! You can find local swim lessons for kids starting at 4-6 months. At this early age, lessons are for both baby and parent and are focused on getting your little one comfortable in the water. As your child gets a little older, typically pre-school age, lessons should include basic swimming skills and water safety.

Home Pool

  • Fences:
    • The best option for securing a home pool is to install a fence that is at least 4 feet tall around all 4 sides of the pool. Ideally, this fence is not connected to the house. The gate to the pool should open out from the pool and have a self-close and self-latch that children can’t reach. Why is this important? Just as it is important to keep animals or neighbors out of your pool, you also need to protect your own pets and children from entering the pool without your knowledge.
    • If your pool is fenced in, but not separate from the house, install a secondary fence or net around all four sides of the pool. There are many designs and options available. No matter what, be sure that your pool is secured at all times.
  • Make sure your back door facing the pool has an alarm that will make noise when opened. Consider having locks adjusted to a height that cannot be reached by young children.
  • Children can be tricky and fast, so think about installing window guards on windows facing the pool. Reconsider pet doors that have access to the pool.
  • Make sure you have rescue equipment nearby. Consider equipment that is made of fiberglass or another material that does not conduct electricity.
  • Have life jackets that fit each of your children based on their size and age, as recommended by U.S. Coast Guard and tested by Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Remember, “floaties” are not a substitute for life jackets. They can create a false sense of security.


Learning to dive is exciting for a kid. However, diving in shallow areas can result in major injuries like neck/spinal cord injuries, head trauma, and potential life-long disability. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind as you talk with your child about diving safety:

  • Never dive in shallow water! Teach your kids to recognize when water is shallow or deep. It may be easier to see how deep the water is in in a pool, but you often can’t see the bottom of open water. When jumping in the water for the first time, always enter feet first.
  • Avoid diving into aboveground pools.
  • Avoid diving through inner tubes or other pool toys.

Water Safety in the Open Water

  • Never swim without adult supervision. No matter how old you are or how good of a swimmer you may be, it is always a good idea to have at least one person with you when swimming in open water.
  • Never dive into water unless you know how deep it is. For kids, they should know not to dive into a pool unless an adult says it is safe.
  • When boating, riding on a personal watercraft, fishing, waterskiing or playing in a river or stream, wear an approved personal flotation device (life jacket or life vest). This is important for both kids and adults. Water wings and other blow-up swimming aids (“floaties”) should not be used in place of life jackets.
  • Never try water sports such as skiing, scuba diving or snorkeling without instructions from a qualified teacher.
  • Never swim around anchored boats, in motorboat lanes, or where people are waterskiing.
  • Never swim during electrical storms.
  • If you swim or drift far from shore, stay calm and tread water, or float on your back until help arrives.
  • Teach your child to know their limits:
    • When they are too tired
    • When they are too cold
    • When they are too far from safety
    • When they have had too much sun
    • When they have had too much hard activity

Exceeding these limitations can set them up for danger.

Aside from lakes, rivers and ponds, other water hazards you may find around your house include canals, ditches, postholes, wells, fishponds and fountains. Watch your child closely if they are playing near any of these areas!

Life Jackets and Life Preserves

  • Always have a life preserver if you are in open water. This may seem obvious for kids, but it is important for adults too. I personally swam in college, and I still find that wearing a life vest while in a lake makes it easier for me to rescue a child in trouble.
  • Have your child wear a life jacket that is approved by the U. S. Coast Guard and was tested by the Underwriter Laboratories (UL). In addition, the jacket should fit for your child’s weight and age.
  • Teach your child how to put on a life jacket correctly.
  • Remember that “floaties” do not replace life jackets. This includes blow-up wings, rafts, noodles or air mattresses.

Water Safety Around the House

  • Never leave an infant or young child alone in the bathtub. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye!
  • Empty large buckets of water when you are done with a project. Infants and toddlers can fit their heads in the buckets and stay stuck.
  • Consider bathroom doorknob locks or covers. Young children could wander into the bathroom and run the bathwater without adult supervision.
  • Consider getting a toilet lid latch so toddlers don’t play with the toilet water. Toddlers could stick their heads in the toilet and get stuck.

Be Prepared for an Emergency

  • Learn how to perform CPR. For all the technology we have in the intensive care units, the two bigger variables in helping a child survive a near-drowning event are:
    • Reducing the time the victim is under water.
    • Being ready and able to perform CPR when the victim is rescued from the water.

CPR classes are available throughout the community. Check bronsonhealth.com/classes as well as the local YMCAs and the American Red Cross.

If you are in an emergency, remember to dial 911 as soon as the drowning victim is pulled from the water.

(This article was originally published on May 25, 2023 at Bronson’s web page)


The Solemnity of the Holy Trinity

This coming Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Holy Spirit.  As I contemplate this feast, memory takes me back to my battles with cancer.

In October of 2012, I found myself wondering if I was developing multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells from my bone marrow.  On a routine physical exam and blood work we found a protein that was elevated, suggesting this cancer as a possibility.  I had battled testicular cancer when I was in my mid-twenties with subsequent relapses in 1998 and 2000, so it was not fun to contemplate having another bout with cancer.

The medical challenge caused me to go deep in prayer, and one more time, to work on my faith in God.  As I found myself contemplating the trees and leaves at a golf resort where my wife was attending a conference, I experienced a communion with the Holy Trinity and wrote this poem:

Your arms engulf me,

Your touch is delicate.

Not by the fire that purifies my soul,

But by your warmth, Father,

I realize you are here to console me.

My heart is at peace,

Weightless and without care,

For there are no regrets from yesterday,

No worries about tomorrow,

But simply joy in being here with you,

Joy to be here with my brothers and sisters.

As I rest in you

I feel complete.

I am in you,

And you are in me.1

This poem was in part inspired by Jesus’ high-priestly prayer where Jesus prays to the Father for his disciples, so that they may be one with the Father as Jesus is one with the Father.

God is calling us to be in relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The Father engulfs us with God’s arms to take care of us and to love us, to understand our shortcomings and to give us mercy.  It is an energy that flows with the Holy Spirit, which listens to the Father and Son and imparts knowledge, wisdom, and love to our hearts.  The Son, the Word incarnate, in full communion the Holy Spirit, has become visible and audible to what God wants us to see and hear.  Jesus came into the world so that we could see and hear how God wants us to be.  Everything the Father has He gives to the Son, so we too can have what the Father has.  Seeing God in person through Jesus helps us relate better to God.  God wants us to be in relationship with God, and we can do this if we acknowledge and realize that the Holy Trinity dwells in our hearts.

We have just celebrated the Pentecost as we awaited the arrival of the Holy Spirit.  It is the tradition of our Western and Catholic church that the solemnity of the Holy Trinity comes the following Sunday after Pentecost.  We started this relationship with the Holy Spirit with our baptism as the Holy water was washed over our heads.  Now through our lives, we have been asked to take a risk in developing this relationship with God so that then, as Pope Benedict XVI states in Benedictus, “to risk giving oneself to the other can great love ensue.”2

When we make the choice to be in relationship with Jesus and learn how God wants us to be as God made us out to be, we take a step in the direction of risking and leaving behind the type of life we have.  With the Holy Spirit burning in our hearts, we can make decisions daily to live as Jesus lived, imparting love, understanding and charity to all.

We are invited to share in this relationship within the Holy Trinity, to experience this energy of Three in One to help stabilize us from the chaos of the material world.  In turn, we are invited and called to be in harmony with our community as we share the energy, love, and charity of the Holy Trinity with each other.  Then, as a community, can we then reflect our world in the truth as God intended it to be.

Saints help us learn of God’s ways.  One such saint is St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, who was born in 1880 in France and grew up near Dijon which had a Carmelite monastery.  After reading the original and first edition of St. Therese of Lisieux’s Story of a Soul, she decided to become a Carmelite nun.  She died of Addison’s disease at the age of 26.  Pope Francis canonized her as a saint in October 2016.3

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity is known for her poem, “Oh My God, Trinity Whom I Adore.”

“O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me forget myself entirely so to establish myself in you, unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing be able to trouble my peace or make me leave you, O my unchanging God, but may each minute bring me more deeply into your mystery! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling, and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole, and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action.”4

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, pray for us!


  1. Finding God Again and Again by John Spitzer
  2. Benedictus, Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI. Ignatius Press, Magnificat 2006.
  3. Catholic News Agency & St. Elizabeth of the Trinity
  4. spiritualdirection.com & St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

The Solemnity of St. John Bosco

We celebrate on January 31st the Solemnity of St. John Bosco, who founded the Salesians of Don Bosco who give assistance and educate the poor children across the world.

Learning about St. John Bosco in Colombia

I remember when I first entered the catholic schools in first grade.  I wondered about the priests’ white cassocks and if these outfits made them closer to God.  There was a mysticism about their behavior and how they conducted themselves: adults with wisdom and knowledge who commanded respect and obedience, but also had a sense of humor and seemed kind, and easy to talk with.  I wanted to get close to them, but not too close.  Making the jump from a public kindergarten to a catholic school seemed to have enough unknowns.  I needed to make new friends, meet new teachers, learn about the new classrooms and the cafeteria.   I even wondered if the students at San Juan Bosco elementary in Cali, Colombia, South America, were different children from me, or whether they were they just like me.

With time, I became more comfortable in the new school environment.  I made new friends and became acquainted with my new teacher, who fortunately knew both English and Spanish.  When we moved to Cali, Colombia that year, I only knew English.  Learning Spanish was a challenge, but I made friends who were eager to teach me their language as much as they wanted to learn some words in English.  As I progressed in elementary, I came to appreciate the school’s teachings of compassion, kindness, and care for the poor.  With time, these virtues became a way of life for me, and today I thank Don Bosco for helping me be God’s instrument.

Who was St. John Bosco?

As we celebrate the Solemnity of St. John Bosco, I think about his life and the challenges he had during his mission.  Born Giovanni Bosco in 1815, he lost his father at the age of two and was raised, along with his 2 older brothers, by his mother Margherita.  They were a poor family in Turin, Italy, where John worked as a farmer and shepherd.  Despite their difficult financial circumstances and food limitations, they felt a strong sense of duty to feed the poor and hungry.  John became a priest at the age of 26 years, founded the Salesian Order in 1859, and was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1934, giving him the title of “Father and Teacher of the Youth.”

Dreams became an important way for God to communicate with Don Bosco.  At the age of nine, he had his first prophetic dream where he found himself with a group of children who were being mean to each other, swearing and hitting each other.  A man whose face was filled with light and dressed in a white flowing mantle appeared and told him, “You will have to win these friends not with blows, but with gentleness and kindness.1” Thus began his vocation and dedication to children.  Later in his teen years, he learned to perform magic, acrobatics, and tricks after watching a circus perform in town.  He used these tricks to get children’s attention and then discuss with them the homilies from the mass.  At this point in his life, he discerned he wanted to become a priest.2

His style of work leaned on being patient, kind and understanding.  Another dream that he had of walking on roses and thorns helped him develop perseverance.  He needed this virtue to tackle the obstacles he faced through his mission.  Government officials wanted him out of the way as they saw the homeless children as a nuisance and a danger; the entrepreneurs from the industrial revolution saw him as an obstacle to using the children for manual labor; he opposed the political fanatics who wanted to recruit the young for political gains; the bishop opposed his work, misunderstanding Don Bosco’s passion for pride; people from the “house of sin” near his oratory saw Don Bosco as an obstacle to their “business.”

But he was able to persevere because of his life in prayer.  In particular, he had a deep devotion to our Blessed Mother.  His way with children and teens, along with his sense of humor and teaching abilities, allowed many orphans to learn about God and learn trade skills for later in life.  Today, the Salesian brothers are present in 1,830 institutions in 128 countries.2

We all care for children

When I think about the people and circumstances of life that played a role in my choosing to care for children, I think about those years at San Juan Bosco elementary in Cali, Colombia.  As I contemplate the gift that God has given me to take care of children, I also think about all of us parents caring for our children, and the love we give them just as Jesus and Mary show their love for us.

Putting the final touches on this blog, I think of Jesus with his disciples.  Jesus had left Capernaum and had gone into the region of Judea and across the Jordan.  Children were coming to Him, and the disciples were becoming annoyed and indignant.  Reading from the gospel of Mark:

He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.3


  1. Don Bosco film, Ignatius Press 2012, San Francisco, CA. Booklet text by Tim Drake and Anthony Ryan.
  2. catholic.org and St. John Bosco
  3. Mark 10:14-16 in Biblegateway.com, NIV

The Development of Your Two-Year-Old

It seems like just yesterday your toddler was just a baby! Where has the time gone? Read on to learn about the developmental changes your two-year-old is experiencing – including the fine-tuning of gross and fine motor skills, expanding their vocabulary, and learning to play well with other kids.

The fall leaves have turned yellow, orange and brown. It seems that about half of them have fallen to the ground and you find yourself in your backyard chasing two-year-old Amelia through the leaves as she giggles and laughs, firmly believing that you cannot catch her. It was just last weekend that you celebrated her birthday party, and you wonder where the time has gone.

During her second year of life, you saw her refine her walking and then progress to running. As you chase her in the backyard, you acknowledge that she is actually a pretty good runner. You wonder if she could turn out to be a soccer player, just like you! During their first two years of life, Amelia has focused a lot of her developmental energy on conquering gross motor skills (like walking and running) and fine motor skills (like holding a spoon and feeding herself). She has developed a sense of satisfaction with herself, which has led to building some self-confidence.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to contrast her present psychological state against her restless and insecure state as a one-year-old, maybe you could look at the way she walks into a room. Her chin is usually up, she often has a smile, and she wants to know if you are ready to play the next game of matching shapes. The constant repetition of doing a task and seeing herself conquer it has established a platform from which she feels she can master any situation. For you as a parent, this has become a great opportunity to continue to foster building her self-confidence. Your biggest challenge is trying to gauge what activities you can get her involved in so that she has a fair opportunity to see herself succeed.

Sometimes we feel stumped trying to come up with ideas on how to spend the day with her. Try:

  • Hot/Cold: Hide toys or objects throughout a room and use the words “warmer” and “colder” to help her find them.
  • Play Make-Believe: Have her sit on a blanket or towel and pull her around the house as if she is on a boat or train. Have her describe what she sees on her journey.
  • Taking Care of ‘Baby’: Have her dress a doll, talk to her doll, and take care of it – just like you take care of Amelia.

Find more ideas in this list of indoor activities from parents.com.

As Amelia gets comfortable with her motor development, her energy shifts to speech development. Most children will have about two or three words in their expressive vocabulary at one year of age, gradually building to 25-50 words by age two. Whereas most of their development energy was concentrated on the motor skills during the first and second years of life, now her energy is going towards speech development. A big milestone at this stage is to be able to put two words together. In general, and there are always exceptions to the rule, girls are more likely to be around 50 words whereas the boys may be closer to 25 words. However, and something to look forward to, by three years of age both boys and girls vocabulary will explode to about 1,000 words and they will be talking in sentences!

Reading every day is a great way to expand her vocabulary. While you read, she hears you pronounce words as they relate to the story. She is also watching your lips and mouth as you enunciate the words. In the same way she used repetition to master her motor skills, she will often repeat words that you use to describe things. Start practicing the A-B-Cs so she can learn that words are made up of letters. Show her visually the letter as you say it. In time, she will learn from repetition and recognition. Amelia also finds colors fascinating. She has already developed a special interest in the color green – her “favorite color.” Teach her to count things as you introduce numbers to her. For example, at an outing, you could say, “How many kitty cats do you see?” and count with her. Or “How many balls do we have?” as you count one, two, and three. A fun way to use word repetition is by reading Dr. Seuss books and by rhyming in songs.

Socially, Amelia is moving from parallel play to sharing with others. Children at this age like to please parents so they can turn out to be big helpers. If you are wondering about her development at this age, check out the Ages & Stages Questionnaire for a two-year-old, which is labeled as ASQ-SE for Social Emotional Development. If you are adding a new baby to the family soon, the biggest challenge for a kid at this age is to redefine themselves. They have been getting all the attention up to this point and they may feel it is hard to share that spotlight. Take advantage of the fact they like to be helpers, and engage them as mommy/daddy’s helper for the new baby.

You may have noticed that sleep has been more peaceful lately. Amelia has been playing all day except for that middle of the day nap. Having a tired body lends for some good sleep at night. Bath time before getting into her jammies can be fun, too. Have her recall her day with you, and then play with her toys before getting out of the tub. If she is having a hard time relaxing after bath time, she might talk some more in bed before falling asleep – maybe telling a story to her bunny. Doing a bedtime story is another way to practice reading while also helping her relax before going to sleep. At this age, children usually need about 11-12 hours of sleep at night to be rested for the adventures of the next day.

One final item to address at this age: toilet training. There are three main ingredients that children need to start the process. Before beginning toilet training, kids should:

  1. Have some bladder control. For example, dry diapers after a nap.
  2. Be able to walk to the toilet on their own.
  3. Have the fine-motor control to help pull up and down their pants.

As long as they have the three skills above, it’s all about the psychology of being ready to go in a toilet – and this comfortability varies widely from child to child. Personally, I give parents reassurance that I have yet to see a child not potty trained by the time they start kindergarten.

There are multiple sources out there on toilet training, but I must admit I am partial to Dr. T. Barry Brazelton. He is a well-known and nationally-recognized developmental pediatrician. His book, Toilet Training the Brazelton Way, and the described method seems very gentle while always keeping in mind that you are assessing your child’s psyche as you try to avoid the development of resistance and defensiveness.

As you get ready for Amelia’s well-child exam, take a look at typical developmental milestones for a two-year-old. I hope you have a great fall season!


More Developmental Milestones

Dr. Spitzer has authored more articles on developmental milestones you can look forward to in your young children. Check them out below!

The Independence of an 18-month-old

“No, no, no …”  It is not uncommon to hear this from an 18-month-old who is flexing his muscle to let you know he is in control. It seems like it was only yesterday that he was so complacent and easygoing: Feedings were always fun. He smiled if you smiled. And those belly laughs made you laugh … Where did it all go?

Once a child begins to walk, they develop a sense of independence where it seems like life has no boundaries. This behavior and the desire to explore is very impulsive and not well thought out. Consequently, and appropriately so, they investigate everything. They want to see how things work, how things taste, and they want to explore cause and effect – i.e. If I pull on this, what will happen?

Learning boundaries is very hard for toddlers because it puts a limit on their desire to learn. This is where we as parents come in to help keep them safe. However, where the lines get drawn for boundaries is where difficulties often arise. Some boundaries are very clear cut. For example, we would never let a toddler run in to the street. Other boundaries, however, can be a little more arbitrary and vary depending on our temperament and how compulsive and careful we are as parents. In addition, the child’s temperament also factors into the conflict of where to set boundaries. Throw in our emotions as parents, how busy was our day, and whether we had much frustration at work, and you can see where we may have a recipe for an explosion at home.

The key to helping a toddler sort through this phase is understanding where and when they need to learn self-control.

Toddlers experience positive emotions when they accomplish something – like climbing onto the couch without any help. Once they get up, they smile, get down and try to climb back up.  And then another smile appears across their face. These are good opportunities for them to see us approve of their accomplishment. This creates confidence and they learn they can get that from us. Also, in the moment, this will lead to cooperation and caring on their part.

On the other side of the coin are the negative emotions where there may be frustration because they could not accomplish their task. Despite multiple attempts, your little one sees the same negative outcome over and over again.  As T. Berry Brazelton – an American pediatrician, author and developer of the Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale (NBAS) – explains, negative feelings must surface with positive emotions. Even we as adults experience this conflict of positive and negative emotions on a regular basis. It is this life-long conflict that children need to learn to live with, and in the process, learn self-control.

These battles where toddlers experience positive and negative emotions can bring on some insecurity. What initially started out as stranger anxiety around 6-9 months of age has now developed into separation anxiety. Your child feels the need to go forward and explore their surroundings, while always looking back over their shoulder to make sure you are still there.  Tantrums are likely to happen if you disappear momentarily from the picture.

In addition to the dynamics of positive/negative emotions and security/insecurity is the temperament of your child. A strong-willed child can display a lot of passion, which can make for some challenging days.

Here are some suggestions to help you guide your 18-month-old:

  • As best as you can, avoid having arguments with your toddler. As a parent, you should always try to remain in control. When you hit a point during the day where a decision needs to be made, rather than asking what your child would like to do, give them an option of two choices they can pick from. For example, at breakfast you could ask “Would you like cereal or pancakes?” The will feel satisfied when they choose an option, and you are satisfied because you can live with either option.
  • When an adverse situation comes up that could make you lose your cool, take a deep breath, exhale, and don’t say anything. Not reacting right away and taking a pause can defuse a situation that could otherwise quickly escalate and make both of you mad. In a very matter of fact tone, acknowledge the situation and move on to another option.  Toddlers have a short memory, giving you the opportunity to refocus on an activity.
  • Take advantage of your child’s desire to be grown up like you. “Can you help me pick this up?” or “Can you help me put this away?” will likely add to their satisfaction that they are behaving like a grown up. And of course, the compliment and thankfulness afterwards will bring a big smile to their face!
  • Learn the technique of ignoring to minimize negative behavior. If your child is doing something that is of small consequence, look the other way and let them learn from their mistakes. Once you see they have learned their lesson, you can reinforce that lesson with a simple, matter of fact statement.
  • Know when to intervene if you feel their behavior is escalating to a tantrum. Tantrums need to be addressed calmly and rationally by providing a “choice.” If your little one is really wound up, remove them gently from the situation and engage in a different activity. Assess if their scheduled needs have been met, i.e. feeding times, nap times, sleep or bedtime to get back on track.
  • With the same matter of fact tone, let them know they are doing a good job. It’s a good idea to praise the work your toddler does and try to avoid using “good boy” or “good girl.” Instead, “I like how you put the toys away, thank you!” can bring a smile to their face. Kids need to know they are accepted and loved just as they are, despite sometimes making mistakes.  But they are here to learn, and we can approve of that process!

More Resources

As you get ready for your toddler’s next well-child exam, take a look at  The AAP HealthyChildren.org 18-month-old article to give you an idea of what questions you might like to ask at that visit. Also, take a look at the Ages & Stages Questionnaire for 18 months old to see where your child is with development. And finally, I found this Today’s Parent 18-month-Old article very educational in helping to enhance knowledge on parenting.



One Year Old Charlie

Happy Birthday Charlie, you are one year old!

The day has finally arrived to celebrate Charlie’s happy birthday!  You have the balloons out by the end of the driveway with a big 1 on them.  Your eyes carry you through pin wheels, teddy bears and yard signs as they line your walkway to the backyard.  Guests have arrived with their children, and grandma and grandpa have their favorite one-year old in their arms.  The trees in the backyard provide for great shade and the cool breeze this afternoon makes for a great celebration!

As parents, you step back for a moment to contemplate the scene and wonder how you ever got to this point.  Why, it only seemed like yesterday that this bundle of joy was so dependent on you for all the feedings, diaper changes and soothing to sleep.

The energy that goes into gross motor development

One of the biggest accomplishments for a one-year-old is learning how to walk.  The energy put into this accomplishment has been building for a long time.  Gross motor development in a child is very predictable, gradually developing strength from the neck and upper body as he learns how to hold his head steady by four months, to building core muscle strength so he can sit in a highchair by six months, and then developing those pelvic muscles and start to crawl by nine months.  Once he gets the idea that he can go places by crawling, he soon realizes that he can pull himself up on furniture, cruise along the furniture and eventually let go.  Those first few steps are exciting, not just for him as you see his facial expression of apprehension changing to smile and satisfaction, but for you as a parent as well as you feel so proud for his accomplishment.  Friends and parents must learn of this milestone, and we post it on Tik Tok, Instagram and Facebook.

What is interesting about the development of this independence is that he truly believes he can conquer everything.  Going over safety and making sure one more time that your home is child-proof is of paramount importance.  You can get a good checklist at American Academy of Pediatrics Home Safety Checklist .

Refining Fine Motor skills

Along with gross motor development, your child’s hands and fingers have become better at handling objects, including the spoon and fork.  Depending on how tidy you like to be, you might feel compelled to provide food for him on his tray and let him use the spoon and fork.  Sometimes, your springer spaniel Murphy gets to have some extra treats when Charlie is in his highchair.  The pincer grasp, with his thumb and index finger, which probably started around nine months of age, is now fully developed as he picks up cheerios and crumbs without difficulty.  His dexterity has also developed so that he turns pages in a book with care, gradually moving away from that stage where he used to mouth the book.

Speech Development at one year

Speech development is just starting to take off.  He has been listening (receptive language) a fair amount and you get the impression he can understand a good amount.  However, expressive language always lags receptive language, and at this stage in his life, he has about two to three words in his vocabulary that you can understand.  His frustrations are frequent as you play guessing games with what he wants, and this will continue for the next year.  What is interesting is that if he has older siblings, they seem to understand him better and they frequently speak for him.

Problem solving and social development

His curiosity continues to push him to explore his surroundings.  He is learning the concept of space and how objects can go into boxes, and he can then take them out.  Object permanency is also taking place so you can hide objects from him, and he can search for them.  And finally, he is learning to scribble on paper as he holds a crayon with an immature grasp (using all five fingers).

Socially, he is still exhibiting some stranger anxiety which had initially sprung up around six to nine months of age.   But if friends and family members can gain his confidence, he can play and interact with them as he shares toys and passes them back and forth or throws a ball across the room.  He is also participating better in getting dressed as he offers you his arms and legs while you try to put on his shirt and pants.

One of the challenges in trying to understand his pushing people away is that sometimes this stranger anxiety mixes in with his sense of independence.  He wants to do things himself and his way.  If we can see this difference, we can then adopt a role of a helper when he is trying to do things his way rather than us moving back a step if he feels stranger anxiety.  The more you do things for him, the more dissatisfied he is going to be and the more likely you are to see some of his frustration.  Then, the temper tantrums will start and sometimes it is hard to get out of that cycle.

His negative energy can make you feel frustrated, and everything can move in a downward spiral.  A good tip of advice: give him space to do it his way and be encouraging and supportive.   A good effort on his part should be celebrated.  Positivity begets positivity and creates the beginnings of a life-long trusting foundation of parental support for the child’s independence and endeavors.

So, for now, it is time to celebrate this magical moment of turning one year old.  I like chocolate cake, how about you?


  1. Ages & Stages Questionnaire
  2. AAP Pediatric Patient Education, Home Safety Checklist
  3. Touchpoints, The Essential Reference, by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1992.

Len Matano, M.D.

Dr. John Spitzer’s highly personal book, Finding God Again and Again, is part memoir, spiritual journey, interior reflection, and testimonial. That achievement is praiseworthy in itself. But for me, the heart and soul of his work are the prayers that close most chapters. Let it be known: Catholicism is not a religion of guilt, but one of humility—mortals kneeling before the God of infinite love in an attitude of right praise toward the one who creates and sustains our beings. Some of John’s experiences parallel my own, including having graduated from Kalamazoo College and returning to that town following medical training, and those certainly resonated with me. What will grab every reader who has ears to hear is his call to holiness, and his own path shines some light on the path. Thank you, John, for sharing your story.

Len Matano, M.D.
Author, Celtic Crossing